Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Redang Island

(last visited September 2013)


The snorkelling enclosure at Redang's Marine National Park Headquarters had the best coral and fish I've seen in SE Asia for several years. Best area was way past the pier near far headland - a fair distance from the beach. Image expands when clicked - may depend on your browser.

Pulau Redang in north-east peninsula Malaysia has some of the whitest beaches, clearest water and best snorkelling/diving in Malaysia. But it is an enigma - while Berjaya's twin beaches and the southern Kalong beaches are as attractive and laid back as you will find, the main twin beach area of Pasir Panjang is packed with midrange resorts and has a holiday camp atmosphere with hundreds of middle class Singaporean /KL families and couples out to have a good time. It's still a beautiful beach but if you don't like lots of people in package holiday mode, go elsewhere.
The trouble with elsewhere for some is that Berjaya (2013 - now known at The Taaras) is above many budgets, and the southern Kalong Beaches are isolated - 2 flashpacker level resorts with only boat access which won't appeal to those looking for a bit of company and variety but not too much. But paradise for seclusion freaks.

A pretty compact island largely covered with steep hills and rainforest. It has the advantage over its near neighbours Perhentians and Kapas in that you can fly right onto the island by scheduled flights (modified Google Earth image).

Redang's location and surrounding islands. Merang is the mainland pier and Kuala Terengganu the nearest city - the airport there has less expensive flights. Scale - 100km from the Perhentians placemark at top to the Marang (not Merang) placemark at bottom. Lang Tangah is the island between Redang and the Perhentians.

BEACHES

Oblique Google Earth image from the north-east.
Berjaya's/The Taarus's two beaches bottom right are know as Teluk Dalum Kecil (Deep Water Bay - small) and Telek Dalum Besar (DWB - big).

Bottom left is the island's main resort beach area - the twin strips of sand which make up Pasir Panjang (Long Beach). There is a continuous line of maybe a dozen resorts along here - I have only labelled three.
The small unlabelled bay above Laguna's place-mark is Telek Bakau. This is not a very attractive area with one resort set back from the beach.
Further south, Telek Kalong (Kalong Bay) is a long sweep with three beach areas -
Kalong Nth with only one resort operating in 2011; Redang Kalong - and twin southern beaches separated by a small headland. Each beach has a really nice place: as labelled, Mutiara on the southern most and Amana Gappa (using its older name Wisana in 2013) on the northern half.
I made this map before Redang Island Resort was constructed on the far southern inlet near the airport.
Labels may be clearer if you click image to expand.


East Coast beaches
(from the north)

PASAR PANJANG NORTH
I took this from the top of the small headland which divides the north and south sections of Pasir Pangjang. This beach has white sand, clear water, some okay+ snorkelling close to the headland in front of the camera. The floating pier tends to be busy with boat traffic although quite a few of the resorts' snorkelling and dive boats simply nose in towards the beach.

This is the dividing headland, at one stage an offshore island called Tanjung Tengah. A cuspate sand-spit has grown in the sheltered water behind to link the island to the formerly much straighter beach.
A buoyed-off swimming enclosure extends right around the headland with the area this side nicely sheltered from any windy-choppy conditions in high season's prevailing winds.
If you click to expand you can see this sheltered section is pretty popular with late-afternoon swimmers. A patch of fairly good coral starts about 30m off the sand this side. At the seaward end of the headland things are pretty bare but once around the other side there is a fairly big section of even better stuff. Unfortunately this does not extend all the way in to the far beach - the first 30m into the water has rubbishy broken and dead coral which is a pity because this was the area a lot of snorkel guides from the resorts on the south beach were taking their charges.
Lots of fish most places in the swimming enclosure - they are used to being hand-fed bread-scraps. The south side of Tanjung Tengah is known for sightings of harmless reef sharks although I did not see any.
I took this shot from the second floor balcony of SAND FLY, the little restaurant adjoining Redang Bay resort. Not a bad place for a late afternoon beer. Or three. That's Redang Bay's bar deck just below - beers the same price but it hasn't got the elevation. Tends to be popular at night with pretty loud music.



UPDATE SEPT 2013 - SAND FLY has been remodelled. No longer 2 storey (high area at back is part of THE BAY's dining area) but still has a nice seating area out front to check the passing scene. Good place to get cheap eats if your resort's restaurant is expensive.

North end of beach. Not too crowded in this 2013 pic, partly because it's Friday before the weekend crowd hits, partly because it's 1130 and people are still on the morning snorkelling trips.


Redang Holiday Villa at the far northern end of the beach. Sizable place extends back onto lower headland - had lots of locals and Chinese guests seemingly on packages.

Storm coming. Actually just going past.


PASAR PANJANG SOUTH
Pasir Panjang - South is sometimes called Shark Bay although that is more likely to be confined to the area left of camera adjacent Tanjung Tengah where harmless reef sharks are often seen.
This beach is a continuation of the same lovely sand, clear water and continuous strip of resorts. It has less boat traffic and picks up the cooling sea-breeze better than Panjang North.
Surprisingly uncrowded in this late morning shot. Perhaps everyone was off on the snorkelling boat trips all the resorts put on - dozens of families and couples from my resort alone took the morning trip each day. The beach always seemed to be busiest late afternoon near sunset.

If you click to expand you may be able to see the walkway to Redang Reef resort along the far headland. I love headland resorts but this outfit ignored my 3 emails - I thought they must be fully booked but when I strolled thru they had quite a few vacant chalets. Interesting business plan.
There is a small bay behind Reef resort which is supposed to have pretty good snorkelling which continues all the way around the headland to this beach. The small bay also has a tiny beach.
The big joint at the far end of the beach is Redang Laguna - the most high-end of the resorts on the two sections of Pasir Panjang. But its email kiosk is no dearer than other places and way faster. Note most places have wireless these days, but I travel light - no notebook for me. Laguna has live music and a disco most nights. Big place - the accommodation units are very spread out so there may not be a noise penalty for most guests. Trip Advisor will tell you.


Local surf nazis rip at Panjang South. Well not quite - the ride only lasted for 5 seconds or so and the quality was rubbishy onshore slop. But as surfers will tell you, you do this because you can. By late afternoon each day of my visit the sea breeze was strong enough to create a bit of a swell on the more exposed south beach. Other beach-goers were having great fun with inflatable mattresses, floating tubes etc.

North or South Pasir Panjang?
So providing you are not put off by lots of people, which half of Panjang should you stay on?
I don't think it matters - just pick the resort you like the look of. You can walk from the middle of North beach to the middle of South in less than 10 minutes.


TELEK BAKU
Telek Bakau is reached by taking the paved 250m path south between Laguna and the headland on which Redang Reef is located. This is not a very attractive bay and at first glance has no resorts - but Redang Bahtera is set back from the beach behind the trees left of camera.
At the far end is a pretty busy pier which gets Laguna's ferries and dive/snorkel craft plus a lot of the general supply boats from the mainland and water taxis from the airport area.
A well defined path to Kalong North beach is immediately behind camera.


UPDATE SEPT 2013 - looks like Redang Bahtera has been closed for some time.


KALONG NORTH
Kalong North does not lack length but apart from Telek Bakau is inferior to other Redang resort beaches. Sand has more broken coral, gets a bit skinny at high tide and the water deepens more slowly and tends not to be as crystal-clear. Nevertheless this would be classed as a pretty nice beach on most SE Asian holiday islands. Only one outfit was operating here in late June 2011 - Redang Kalong which looked like a fairly nice budget/flashpacker standard joint. Mozana was closed for business and one other place was in ruins (or maybe it was part of Mozana).
This would be an okay beach for lower end travellers looking for the quiet time but who want an occasional burst of life/entertainment - the bars, restaurants etc of Panjang Pasir are maybe 20 minutes walk north. Not to mention gorgeous sand and water.

Snorkelling/dive boats leave Redang Kalong resort.

UPDATE SEPT 2013
Looks like Mozana is planning a comeback. Unoccupied but seemed 90% refurbished when I passed by. Would be pressing things to be open before the season closes in late Oct.



KALANG SOUTH 1
Kalong South-1 is the next beach, separated from Kalang North in the previous shot by a substantial section of rocks** above which were steep rainforested slopes with no access track. So if you stay here the only place you can walk to is the adjacent Tanjung South-2 beach which is a two minute stroll via that substantial pier-walkway in background (click shot to expand).
** A Closer look in 2013 showed only the first 20m of (vertical) rocks from the north would be difficult, but if you waited for lowest tide it would be reasonably easy wading. The rest seems mainly flatish rocks.
Wow, this is one nice beach with the usual white sand and clear water. There was one newish flashpacker standard resort Amannaggapa on this beach, up in the area near the boat - I think this is the old Wisana redeveloped. I talked to two Brit guests, the only ones at the time, who told me they were in paradise - the isolation was just what they wanted.
UPDATE SEPT 2013 - Amannaggapa has reverted to the Wisana name.


The transfer barge for the public ferry from the town pier to Kuala Terengganu noses in to pick up Wisana guests in Sept 2013.



KALONG SOUTH 2
Kalong South-2 aint exactly shabby either. The one resort here, the long-running Redang Mutiara has a bigger number and range of chalets than its near-neighbour. Still pretty relaxed - one Malay family and one western couple to be seen when I went by in 2011. Seemed to have a few new buildings in Sept 2013.

There is hope for a pathway into Kalong South beaches from the north. In 2011 I  found this unfinished 250mm water pipeline leaving Kalong North beach and climbing south up through the rainforest - I think the eventual idea is to augment the Pasir Panjang resorts' water supplies with a more reliable source maybe near the airport or village. I followed it for about 600m, often walking along the top when things got a bit tricky at the side - I then noticed some smaller water suppy pipes diving downhill at a creek crossing which I figured must be from small dams higher on the creek to the resorts on Kalong South, so I followed them down about 200m to the beaches. Now it would be common sense to take advantage of the area cleared for the new pipeline by putting in a permanent path, not only to ease access to the beaches but to facilitate pipeline maintenance - pathways on both Perhentian islands follow water pipelines. Actually if it was Thailand they would let the jungle swallow the pipeline. Whenever a fault happens the repair crew hack their way thru again.
UPDATE - no apparent path alongside the pipeline in Sept 2013.


North coast beaches

TELUK DALUM KECIL
Teluk Dalum Kecil is the beach in front of the high-end Berjaya Resort (now called THE TAARAS in Sept 2013) on Deep Water Bay at the north of the island. A security goon wasn't too keen on me going into the resort to check the beach out (fair enough, I'd be leery of a retrobate like me too) but it looked pretty nice to me from the headland. The water aint exactly murky either. What struck me at this peak sunning time of 11am was how few people were on the beach.

TELUK DALUM BESAR
Deep Water Bay's other beach is the delightful Besar (big) beach. Not exclusive to Berjaya, it can be accessed by the jungle track from the main twin Pasir Panjang beach on the east coast which reaches the creek at the far end - or from Berjaya the camera end by a paved road that goes over the headland between Kecil and Besar beaches - a steep 10 minute walk - but when I first visited a truck load of guests were being ferried in suggesting that regular shuttles are the go.
This is a lovely beach, probably the best on the island - although before the resort development the twin Pasir Panjang was probably better. When I walked across for a second visit the only person on the beach was a local cop from the village - all excited about some big time football star staying on the Berjaya owner's super yacht moored 500m offshore. He thought I might be the guy simply because I was doing a few sit-ups on the sand. Me a football star? I hate soccer. Girls' game. Played by a bunch of mamas' boys/cheats/divers. But Rugby - that's different.


Southern Island beaches
There are scraps of sand all over the south of the island. Probably the best are at the National Marine Park headquarters island - see below in SNORKELLING. You can stay there if you like camping - if you want a resort your only chance is the new Redang Island Resort at Teluk Siang on the big southern inlet near the airport, village and public pier.

TELUK SIANG
I shot this from the transfer barge to the public ferry - the pier is out of frame to right. The hotel stretches right along that far ridge. If you click expand you will better see 6 small beaches - the one at right had sunlounges. I don't know if sand and water quality match the beaches further north from a distance the sand didn't look particularly white. Certainly you are isolated - but then access from the airport and public ferry is easier.


I ripped this shot off the resort's website. That's the National Park HQ island, Palau Pinang, in the background.


SNORKELLING
Redang is known as a snorkelling location. And indeed in the snorkelling enclosure at the Marine National Park Headquarter Island, Pulau Pinang, was the best coral and fish display I've seen in Malaysia, Thailand or the Bali area for several years.

The southern part of the snorkelling enclosure at Marine NP HQ - Pulau Pinang. Click to expand - the buoyed-off area extends all the way to the small headland past the pier. I found the coral was best close to camera a bit further out from the beach - near the pier is was largely broken but there was no shortage of fish due to the amount of fish feeding done by visitors. Near the far headland the coral improved but this area is subject to sand-drift - coral and sand are not good friends. This morning session was very popular, with several hundred people in the water or on the beach - 99% in their bright yellow or orange life jackets.


Redang Bay resort boats arriving at the Marine Park HQ pier. Redang Bay managed 3 snorkel-trip boats alone and soon there were half a dozen others from various resorts. Instant crowd. But I managed to easily snorkel by myself - most people were content to feed the fish in the shallows near the pier rather than search for the good coral in more distant areas.

The headquarters area is worth a visit even if you don't snorkel. This shot is taken from the small northern headland. The nice beach in front of the pier changes direction abruptly at the headland and heads south-east for 400m. Behind the pier beach you can find some shops, educational stuff, turtle conservation pens - even a small mosque.

Google Earth view of Marine National Park HQ area at Palau Pinjang, Redang.

The back beach at Marine Park HQ has a sizeable camping area - these school kids were packing up. I'm not sure what the camping fee is - but the Marine Park entry fee is only rm5 (less than $US2) which puts Thailand's Marine Park fee for foreigners of 500baht (about $17) to shame. The Marine Park fee for Redang is paid at the airport or mainland pier.

The resorts tend to do morning and afternoon snorkelling trips - and if you stay several days you get to see several other sites. I took one other - to a deep reef in the chanel a good 500m off Kalong North beach. I was not gruntled - the water was too deep for surface snorkellers to see much of the coral, and when I headed for the bottom this was pretty mediocre. There was a diver down there photographing stuff - what exactly was keeping him busy I don't know. I think he was a stooge to impress the tourists. One 10 yo kid, one of the few Malays without a life-vest, obviously wasn't too impressed - he kept diving the 4 m from the surface and tapping the diver on the head. The kid and I thought this a bit of a larf (yep, I have the emotional maturity of a 10 yo) but the diver didn't seem to share the joke.
However the fish population in this spot was pretty good and when the snorkelling guides produced bread scraps we had the usual feeding frenzy which is always value. I gained the impression on my Redang, Perhentians, Kapas and Tioman snorkelling trips that Asian snorkellers (and many westerners) aren't all that interested in the coral - as long as there are fish to check out.

I figured if that location was considered a worthwhile snorkelling trip site I wouldn't bother with any further organised jaunts (I have read that the Marine Park has closed some of the best areas due to coral bleaching damage) and simply get my snorkelling kicks off the main beach around the Tanjung Tengah headland mentioned earlier. It's so much easier to fall into the water off the sand than to take some crowded boat trip where 200 people off 4 or 5 boats form a floating scrum of yellow/orange life jackets and take 20 minutes to get into and out of the water etc.

People boarding two of the resort's boats of the main beach for the afternoon snorkel trip. For some reason these boats seem to moor in excessively deep water - I watched returning people jumping from smaller boats, loosing their footing in the deeper-than-expected water and going under. Not the best thing if you are carrying a camera etc. Not a bad idea to double wrap it in some simple plastic sandwich bags etc.

I didn't snorkel off the beach elsewhere but as mentioned before, I have read that the area right around the southern headland on which Reef Resort is located at Pasir Panjang South is similar to Tanjung Tengah.


Island snorkelling comparisons - Redang/Perhentians/Kapas/Tioman/Sibu in June/July 2011.
I found:
- the very best snorkelling was at the Marine National Park HQ at Pulau Pinang, Redang.
- the best snorkelling trip sites collectively were at the Perhentians. Lang Tengah and then Tioman next.
- best snorkelling off the beach was at the Perhentians and Tioman but Redang and Kapas were not that far behind.
- the most inferior snorkelling trip and snorkelling off the beach were at Pulau Sibu, but this was still way better than on my March visit to Thailand's supposedly world-class Surin Islands.

Langkawi is the other major Malaysian peninsula holiday destination - not really worth comparing because we are talking of a different tourist season (best weather late Nov into April) - but the snorkelling is very ordinary off the beach. Better but not great on snorkelling day-trips which mostly involve big distances from base.

Thing is, if pretty good snorkelling is a major criterion in your selection of an east coast Malaysian island the only one I'd discount is maybe Sibu (and this joint has plenty of other attractions). I reckon you should decide between the others on their other attractions because you are going to find pretty good snorkelling. Remember this is written in mid 2011 and things can change (um, well I'm still of the same opinion in late 2013)

DIVING
Redang is also known as an excellent dive island with over a dozen designated sites. Once again, the Marine National Park has closed some in 2011. Most resorts have dive centres and can do dive courses and introductory dives. The snorkelling area around Tanjung Tengah headland at the main beach always seemed to have a stream of bubbles breaking the surface and they had nothing to do with tezza eating too much curry.

The board outside the Dive Shop at Redang Bay resort has a lot of dive site and other info.


TREKKING

Pasir Panjang to Berjaya - this is a good jungle trek and leads from the crowded east coast beach to the bigger of the two beaches near Berjaya in the island's north - the gorgeous Telek Dalum Besar.
The jungle is pretty good quality with chances to spot monkeys, big monitor lizards and birds. The track is well defined with no false leads, there are no sustained steep slopes (the track goes up over a fairly low saddle with a few very short steepish pinches), it is not too rough but I suggest no flip-flops or other lightweight footwear - joggers are fine. I did the return trip twice - if you keep up a steady pace you can do it in 50 minutes one-way.

In the afternoons Redang Bay resort offered the choice of a snorkelling trip or guided jungle walk along the track outlined above. I started with about 30 guests but around the half way mark to the north coast the rest decided they'd had enough and left me and one guide to complete the walk. I worry a bit about the fitness of the Asian middle-class. One 13 year old boy had to be helped across slightly rough creek crossings by a shoulder/hand holding father issuing instructions and reassurance - this kid was not disabled in any way. Hell, the typical Aussie kid the same age would be 300m ahead on the track looking for death-adders. My daughter used to find them, too - Ladette Tezza was on first names basis with ER doctors.
If you are an adolescent in this 13 year old boy's cohort please don't be offended or sulk. Just MAN UP. Otherwise sometime in the near future your golf buggy may break down on the 12th at Seletar Country Club, a 3km slog to the club house. You aint gonna make it baby.


To find the eastern start of the track, walk along this new road in back of the main beaches resorts. The "jungletracking" is signposted towards the north end roughly behind the rather flash Sari Pacifica and is the only well defined path into the thick jungle. You can see where the low saddle route is by the dip in the tree-tops in shot's background.
From Berjaya - take the steep headland road to the bigger beach, go to the far end, walk up the creek a short distance and you will see the track on the other side.


Note the new road above was still under construction in June 2011. It looks like it will go from the busy supply pier south of Laguna on Telek Bakau to behind the northern most main beach resort on Pasir Panjang. This is no small project but I was told the resorts are financing it, not the Marine Park or local/state/national governments. UPDATE 2013 - the new road finished but it looks like it is a white elephant - I walked the full length from the pier and was passed by only one tractor with guest trailer in 30 odd minutes. Most are still using the beach for access which admittedly is by far the more romantic way to reach the resorts. Area beside the road seems to have become a bit of a rubbish dump. Sad.

Pasir Panjang southwards.
It is possible to stroll to the end of Kalong North by taking the 250m paved path that goes from the end of Panjang in front of Laguna to Teluk Bakau pier, walking to the far end of the beach and taking the well defined path there the short distance across to Kalong North beach. From Laguna this would take little over 10 minutes.
But as mentioned earlier, there was no pathway from Kalong North to Kalong South and I don't recommend taking the water pipeline route I took unless you have a surfer's sense of balance and foolhardiness (it was quite a drop off the top of the pipe into some of the deeper gullies).
As I said earlier, if commonsense prevails perhaps a permanent path will be put in along the pipeline.


REDANG BAY RESORT - 2011.

When Reef Resort ignored my booking requests I had another look at accommodation and decided to stay at REDANG BAY RESORT on Pasir Panjang North. This was largely because this place has a dorm which suits my budget-traveller finances better than flasher places.
I found it difficult to pay a deposit on account this joint (and many other Malaysian resorts) don't do credit cards but prefer direct telegraphic transfers into their bank account, which my bank is not too excited about. But I found a site, De Penarek Beach Travel and Tour which does take credit card payments and seemed very prompt and efficient. This outfit can book all other north-east coast islands and is located opposite the Kuala Besut pier (to the Perhentians) arcade.

Redang Bay resort. That's the bar in the middle. The block at left has reception and the dive/snorkelling shop at ground level with the dorm rooms on top. The beachside block at right contains a private restaurant with the upstairs seating area from which I took the Tanjung Tengah beach shot up page. Behind this are a couple of small stores. The bigger 2 storey block behind has a huge upstairs dining area - needs to be huge, this joint feeds 300 people at once.
The main accommodation wing is set behind - a 2 storey kinda 60s motel-style block up the left side with nicer single storey chalet rooms on the other 2 wings. A small pool is in the middle - only about 15m long but real popular with the families (and no doubt useful for the dive school beginners).


Redang Bay is an interesting joint. It seems like a holiday camp for lower middle income Malaysian and Singaporean families/couples. Not too many westeners here - I was the only one for most of my stay. I don't know what management's business plan is but it sure works - the place was packed the 4 non-weekend days I was there. No vacancies whenI decided to see what the non-dorm accommodation was like.
But the dorm did have vacancies - on my first 2 nights in one of the fairly spacious 2 double-bunk rooms I had a room-mate, a Malaysian guy doing a dive course. The other 2 nights I was by myself. I got the idea the dorm was mainly built as cheap accommodation to attract divers - the dive school classroom was at the end of the corridor. It didn't seem to attract other backpackers - there was a handful next door at popular Redang Lagoon but they were pretty scarce elsewhere. As were other westerners - flash Laguna seemed to have most but still less than half its total guests.

BTW the dorms were clean, had aircon and the 4 bathrooms had hot water showers. However rooms on the courtyard side of the block get extremely loud music from the bar until the early hours. I moved to a room the other side of the corridor - much quieter.
Redang Bay's management and staff are efficient and keep in pretty good humour considering the large number of people they are dealing with. The dining area workers are heroes.

Part of the big upstairs dining area or "cafeteria" as Redang Bay calls it. This is the smallest crowd I saw, late in one of the 2 hour breakfast sessions. At its busiest every chair was taken in the greater area - I reckon 300 diners. Staff managed to keep dishes and coffee/tea/juices well stocked, clear tables, clean up spills and handle the other disasters inevitable with so many people.

All meals are buffet style and to Asian tastes not western. The dishes change daily - particularly at lunch and dinner. My notes say meals ranged from "ordinary" to "sensational" in taste - the sweet and sour fish one dinner was as good as I've had. Anywhere.

Quantity is no problem and I was amazed by the amount of food these people could sink. I exercise hard and can hoover huge amounts of tucker at a buffet but these folk left me for dead. Hell the place also did afternoon tea - I would take a slice of cake with my coffee, most of these dudes had 5 slices of cake. The gluttons 10. Demographers will tell you the US and Australia have the world's highest rates of overweight/obese people - about 60% from memory. Okay, that's for the whole popularion - but if you confine it to the middle class, the Singaporeans and Malaysians would win hands down - 80% are seriously circumferentially-challenged.
If you fit this expansive demographic don't be offended or sulk. Just praise God your country has plenty of tough sleek urban/rural poor to recruit for the armed forces. Otherwise you are history in any future conflict.

People-watching here is interesting. There are beautiful Indian-Malaysian/Singaporean girls in quite sexy outfits at one table and at the adjacent table women in full burqas.
One young 20s something babe in contemporary clothes loaded a piece of bread with butter and jam and then stuck it into one of those continuous conveyor-belt toasters. WTF! Naturally it jammed up (unintentional pun) and one of the staff had to dismantle and clean the thing, much to the disgust of the young woman and others waiting - it was obviously the resort's fault. Got me thinking, has this girl never done her own toast? Does mommy or the maid do this at home? Thing is, this resort was more for the Camry/Corolla lower middle-class (can they afford maids?), not the BMW/Lexus set who are swanking it up down at Laguna or Sari Pacifica.If you identify with our clueless toaster, don't be offended or sulk. Just LEARN SOME BASIC LIFE SKILLS. What’s gonna happen when Indo and the Philippines develop economically and the supply of cheap maids dries up? Better marry a tycoon, sweetheart.

While I'm wearing my critic's cap I gotta talk about THE WASTE. Check this sign on the wall of the cafeteria. Can't help being racist here - as the script at bottom suggests, it's aimed at Chinese guests. This is something I've seen with middle-class Chinese diners in Thailand and Indo too (never been to China itself, too busy checking SE Asian islands for you dudes) - they load up about 5 plates with huge amounts of food - and leave about 30% uneaten. I figure it is a cultural thing - showing they are wealthy enough to waste food. My Malaysian dorm friend said such signs are widespread in KL restaurants.
BTW, despite the sign there was plenty of food left on the table at Redang Bay cafeteria.
If you fit this food-waster profile don't be offended or sulk - just remember THE WORLD IS FACING AN IMPENDING FOOD SHORTAGE. Hey, sleek times ahead! You could become THE BIGGEST LOSER.



UPDATE SEPT 2013 - Redang Bay has cement-rendered its main block. Gives a much more contemporary look compared to the old dark-stained wood finish.
I noticed Coral Resort and Redang Beach Resort had some impressive new or upgraded blocks too.

SARI PACIFICA - 2013
On my return trip I had Lady Tezza in tow. She is not a great fan of dorms or the 3 daily buffet/2 snorkelling trips package deal, which cut our options considerably. Of other places which were still available on the popular booking sites The Taarus was way too expensive, Redang Holiday Resort badly situated and Laguna had become a cult destination following an appearance in a blockbuster Chinese lurv movie. So despite some misgivings gained from less than positive user reviews, Sari Pacifica got the nod. My conclusion: either this pace had lifted its game or some people protest too much. Maybe both. One thing I will agree with the less than gruntled: the place at $us100 incl breakfast was overpriced.

Sari Pacifica's impressive reception/restaurant block towards the northern end of the beach. Big pool is between block and beach. No shortage of sunlounges on a fairly busy Malaysian long weekend holiday. Beachfront villas stretch about 150m to the right - behind are the garden villas situated around a lagoon.


The Garden Villas were not individual but in blocks of 4. Our Garden Villa room was huge with ante rooms for storage and vanity + a big bathroom and balcony. It had all the inclusions and comfort expected of a 3/4 star room. We heard no disco noise from the adjacent resort, a previous user-complaint. The lagoon, another source of complaint (''smellly swamp") was a work in progress but was not smelly and starting to look pretty good with blue tinted water from the plastic lining and a water feature. Lilly pads etc coming? The units themselves had received a recent exterior repaint. My reservations match previous complaints:  the house keeping manager should get the bullet. Hard to see areas in our room had not been swept and things like the emptied ashtray had not been cleaned. There was no toilet paper.


Outlook from the upstairs dining area. Pool big and unlike previous user complaints, clean (green shade here due to cleaning chemicals). Cool pool/beach bar out of shot to right. 
Spacious lobby/reception below had many comfy chairs etc. Staff performance here excellent. 
Ditto in the restaurant except for the breakfast egg guy who kept disappearing. Inclusive buffet pretty nice first morning, fairly ordinary after. Other meals are buffet but overpriced for Malaysia - lunch rm38++, dinner rm48++. We had these at Sand Fly and similar along the beach.

 Beach sun lounges good place to spend time.....






Malaysian ad agency doing some sort of kids' leisure-wear shoot. Later roped in resort kid guests much to their parents' delight.

In conclusion, I found Sari Pacifica a pretty good place but as stated, overpriced.
The same money will buy a top drawer 5 star joint in Thailand or Bali and less than half gets a pretty good place on the Perhentians. Nevertheless it was better value than nearby Lang Tengah’s D’Coconut.


GETTING TO REDANG.
The mainland pier for Redang is Merang (not Marang) about 40km north of the fair sized coastal city of Kuala Terennganu. The resorts tend to run their own ferries out to the island - you are looking at maybe 70 minutes. A few resorts use the public ferry out of the downtown KT Shahbandar pier and then transfer people around to the beach from the village/airport pier in Redang's south on a shuttle barge.

Public ferry shuttle barge


Public ferry bigger and faster than all resort boats bar maybe Laguna's. Aircon. The longer distance trip into KT we took in 2013 seemed as quick as 2011's to Merang without the need for a further bus/taxi shuttle.
Fishing type boat at left seemed to be unloading snorkellers - maybe Redang Holiday Resort guests.

The resort ferries use piers at the beaches. Redang Laguna and a few other resorts use the pier at Teluk Baku just south of the main twin beaches and shuttle guests around on tractors.

There is also the Mingstar fast boat out of Merang for people not tied to any resort transfers.

Return resort ferry fares seemed to be about rm70 in mid 2011 but the resorts' package deals include discounted ferry transfers and help to make the packages good value compared to pricing individual components. The KT public ferry was 55rm in 2013. If you are heading for KT or a bus south this is probably a good deal - for the airport KT is no closer than Merang.

Very inexpensive bus transfers between Merang and KT airport or bus station are also offered by the packages.
Overnight buses run into KT bus station from KL and big express buses go along route 3 from Kota Bahru in the north and Cherating, Kuantan, Mersing and Johor Bharu to the south.

If you need a taxi to/from KT I think you may be looking at around rm40-50. A few public buses run past Merang from KT but you will have to walk the last few hundred meters from the road bridge over the pier inlet..
I think a taxi from Kuala Besut (the mainland pier for the Perhentians) would cost around rm70-80. I went the other way on exiting Redang - there were no taxis waiting at Merang pier (heaps of resort buses and shuttles in the opposite KT direction) so I got a private driver hanging around the pier to take me to Besut for rm80. UPDATE 2013 - maybe this was a bit dear: I did the reverse trip latest visit for rm70 in a taxi from Kuala Besut pier.

The easiest way to access Redang is by flying onto the island. Berjaya Air run daily flights from KL and Singapore - and these are not too expensive if booked a long time ahead - my flight from Singapore cost around $us100 - maybe 75 minutes. This shot is on arrival. Immigration/customs for Singapore arrivals are done at the small terminal.

Note this not as good a deal as it appears, because transfers from the airport to the eastern beaches is a rip-off. I paid rm20 for the 3km van to the pier and rm50 for the 10km water taxi to the main beach - probably 5 times what a multi-share trip of similar distance would cost you elsewhere. At least it was less than half the rm150 Redang Bay quoted. I doubt that flight times would coincide with the public ferry's inclusive shuttle mentioned above. It certainly didn't back in 2011
Note too that Berjaya/Taarus guests hop on a free shuttle to their resorts - a shortish road trip, no water taxis needed. No doubt these days shuttle vehicles are waiting to take people to the new Redang Island Resort. I read on a Redang tourist website that this was at one stage being run by Berjaya.

Despite the rip-off price the water taxi from the pier near the airport did not take me to Redang Bay's beach but dropped me at the pier on Telek Bakau to the south. However the Bay knew I was coming and sent a tractor with trailer to pick me up. Driver a nice guy - also picked up a family from my water taxi struggling along with heavy bags to Redang Beach resort.
Here we have just hit the main Pasir Panjang South beach adjacent Laguna - that's the Tanjung Tengah sand-spit joined headland in back with my Redang Bay destination just around the corner.
Once that new road is built behind the resorts I imagine all transfers from Bakau pier will go along there. Less scenic but less disruptive to beach goers.

If you want to save time by flying (from KL at least) both Air Asia and Malaysian (maybe Firefly) have daily flights into Kuala Terengganu from where you can take advantage of the resorts' good value transfers.
I know Firefly does a flight into KT from Singapore every second day - I couldn't afford to waste a day waiting.

ISLAND HOPPING - some people island hop from the Perhentians or Lang Tengah.
There is no regular ferry so for Perhentians this is a case of having to charter a small boat - I'm told rm450+ is the go. I'm personally not keen on long trips in small boats - if doing this I'd try to make an early trip before any sea breeze gets up and makes things rough and wet.
Lang Tengah is much closer and the good news is that the Mingstar boat mentioned above seems prepared to divert to Lang Tengah on its Merang-Redang trip to shuttle guests across.

Mingstar boat is fast and weather proof. Trip from Lang Tengah took less than a half hour and cost rm70 (2013).



Tezza goes for the big artistic closing shot - view from The Bay resort's cafeteria at dinner.

For a heap of maps, dozens of underwater and other pix and some good general info take a look at wonderingstar's wonderful Redang snorkelling page at http://whatsthesnorkellinglike.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/malaysia_redang/

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If you are thinking of visiting Redang you might also be interested in nearby PULAU KAPAS, the nicest island I have visited in years - and of course the PERHENTIANS. Not to mention the closest island, LANG TENGAH.
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NOTE - IF YOU SEE ANY MISTAKES OR HAVE EXRA INFORMATION PLEASE POST THEM BELOW. IF YOU HAVE A QUESTION PLEASE ASK IT ON THE FORUM PAGE ACCCESSED VIA THE INDEX WHICH I CHECK MOST DAYS - I DON'T VISIT THESE INDIVIDUAL ISLAND PAGES VERY OFTEN.
IF YOU VISIT REDANG AND WANT TO UPDATE US CHECK OUT THE READERS' TRIP REPORT SECTION VIA THE INDEX.

7 comments:

Doss said...

Hey Man - One of the most imformative travel sites out there. thanks for your work.
Just got to say, regarding that sign about food wastage...Yep, just got back from China. The affluent classes do indeed have this culture of buying more than they can eat (wallets too big for their bellies). It's a sickening waste and I'm glad some restaurants in SE Asia are doing something about it. Mao would not approve ;p
Rgds, Doss

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clummzie said...

Hi Tezza,

Very informative blog and am starting to base our family around some of your findings!

Spending 2 weeks in Malaysia of which 1 we're spending in Perhentian Basar.

I'd be interested to hear what you'd recommend for the other week - I was looking at Tioman, Kelek beach but from your comments it (the beach)doesn't sound so great.

Any comments gratefully received.

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